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French Revolution

Women's March on Versailles

History >> French Revolution

The Women's March on Versailles was an important event at the start of the French Revolution. It gave the revolutionaries confidence in the power of the people over the king.

Leading up to the March

In 1789 France, the main food of the commoners was bread. A poor French economy had led to a scarcity of bread and high prices. The people were hungry. In Paris, women would go to the market to buy bread for their families, only to find that what little bread was available was very expensive.

Women marching on Versailles carrying weapons
Women's March on Versailles
Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France
Women in the Marketplace Riot

On the morning of October 5, 1789, a large group of women in a Paris marketplace began to revolt. They wanted to buy bread for their families. They began to march through Paris demanding bread at a fair price. As they marched, more people joined the group and soon there were thousands of marchers.

The March Begins

The crowd first took over the Hotel de Ville in Paris (sort of like a city hall) where they were able to get some bread as well as weapons. Revolutionaries in the crowd suggested they head to the palace in Versailles and confront King Louis XVI. They called the king the "Baker" and the queen the "Baker's wife."

Were there only women in the crowd?

Although the march is often referred to as the "Women's" March on Versailles, there were men included in the crowd as well. One of the main leaders of the march was a man named Stanislas-Marie Maillard.

At the Palace in Versailles

After six hours of marching in the pouring rain, the crowd arrived at the king's palace in Versailles. Once the crowd arrived at Versailles they demanded to meet the king. At first, things seemed to be going well. A small group of women met with the king. He agreed to provide them food from the king's stores and promised more in the future.

While some of the group left after the agreement, many people stayed and continued to protest. Early the next morning, some of the crowd were able to get into the palace. Fighting broke out and some of the guards were killed. Eventually, peace was restored by Marquis de Lafayette, the leader of the National Guard.

Drawing of Lafayette on balcony with Marie Antoinette
Lafayette Kisses Marie Antoinette's Hand
by Unknown
Later that day, the king addressed the crowd from a balcony. The revolutionaries demanded that he return to Paris with them. He agreed. Then the crowd demanded to see Queen Marie Antoinette. The people blamed a lot of their problems on the queen and her lavish spending habits. The queen appeared on the balcony with her children, but the crowd demanded that the children be taken away. The queen stood there by herself with many in the crowd pointing guns at her. She may have been killed, but Lafayette knelt before her on the balcony and kissed her hand. The crowd calmed and allowed her to live.

The King Returns to Paris

The king and queen then traveled back to Paris with the crowd. By this time the crowd had grown from around 7,000 marchers to 60,000. After the return march, the king went to live at Tuileries Palace in Paris. He would never again return to his beautiful palace in Versailles.

Interesting Facts about the Women's March on Versailles Activities

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  • More on the French Revolution:

    Timeline and Events
    Timeline of the French Revolution
    Causes of the French Revolution
    Estates General
    National Assembly
    Storming of the Bastille
    Women's March on Versailles
    Reign of Terror
    The Directory
    Famous People of the French Revolution
    Marie Antoinette
    Napoleon Bonaparte
    Marquis de Lafayette
    Maximilien Robespierre

    Symbols of the French Revolution
    Glossary and Terms

    Works Cited

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